By Arden Benner
Founded in 2015, Royce Geospatial Consultants (Royce Geo) is a fast-growing small-business government contractor specializing in the realm of Geospatial Intelligence (GEOINT). Not to be placed in one box, the Royce Geo team has a wide-ranging skill set, covering everything from traditional IT to geospatial data analysis, software delivery, unified communications and cloud / storage services. When we spoke to David Sterling, Royce Geo’s founder and friend of AGS, he referred to what his team does as working beyond the map—the “nuts and bolts” behind the scenes that create a smooth, efficient, and effective product—the essential things that a user may not know to look, or ask, for. The Royce Geo team are employed via contract to support their clients in whatever mission they hold, armed with technical prowess and subject matter expertise. These missions vary in content and complexity, allowing professionals from across the GEOINT spectrum to work together toward a common goal.
AGS had the chance to sit down and talk (virtually) with Royce Geo’s founder David Sterling, his long-time friend and more recent colleague Lee Bader, and HR wiz Jan Mielke. Together Lee and Dave have decades of experience in GEOINT and the geography community at large. Lee joined Dave and Jan at RoyceGeo in September after 18 years with LEIDOS (you can learn more about his path to and through geography in his 2018 “I Am Geo” post here). The same month he joined the team, Royce Geospatial Consultants was named number 333 out of the country’s 5000 fastest growing businesses; in Virginia’s top twenty and number one in Arlington their very first time being placed on the Inc. list. On October 21st, Royce Geo was recognized by the Washington Business Journal’s FAST 75 List as the 5th fastest growing company in the Washington DC Metro.
The Royce Geo team is made up of around eighty individuals working across three different continents, with concentrations in the St. Louis and Washington D.C metro areas. They are a “top class” group of “technically astute and extremely sharp employees,” headquartered in Arlington, VA. Dave calls Jan the architect of their team of overachievers. Under Jan, she designed and purpose and values program, which is the bedrock for our firm. Jan also used this effort to create an emphasis on recognizing good work, hosting quarterly peer nominated recognition awards. Our values and ability to recognize hard work has been integrated into the day to day operations.
Royce Geo is continuing to grow both in size and capability. One aspect that inspired Lee to join the company was its ability to deliver a variety of technical services across multiple domains in innumerable ways. Looking toward the future, Dave plans to invest in geospatial training and bringing lessons from the field back to the firm. To him, “success in executing the mission and robust inhouse training are very much tied together.” It’s the “teach them to fish” mentality that gives Royce Geo employees a leg up.
Royce Geo already had the groundwork in place when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the team into a remote work situation. Google Hangouts and virtual meetings are the new norm for many of us, and the Royce Geo team is no exception Sterling stated, “Having a geographically dispersed workforce across 3 continents and several major US cities, we were very accustomed to working in a virtual meeting environment. Furthermore, we build immersive collaborative audio-visual environments for our partners to share information and to visualize geospatial data; we’re extremely comfortable in this space”. The team was able to “rapidly pivot and adjust to a new operating tempo” without missing a step. When it came to prioritizing employee safety, Dave explained that “solid communication and good conditioning proved to be probably one of the best things that helped us out moving forward…we had to operate like a much larger firm.” Still working remotely, the team has been able to keep a sense of camaraderie in place; while the world has definitely changed, RoyceGeo is continuing to look toward the future.
To Dave and Lee, the future of Geospatial Intelligence (GEOINT) is expanding. Lee connected the future of geography as a field to technology and the explosion of devices. “Two years ago, there was a big focus on autonomous vehicles. As the tech grows and expands, there’s going to be a massive need for people to help companies and their data, safety policies, and measures for those vehicles.” Who will come to meet the demand of these companies, armed with skills in GIS, computer science, and data analysis? Dave calls those with this combination of experiences a purple unicorn—and he’s referring to his employees at Royce Geo.
Dave and Lee say they can see the GEOINT pivot coming, and coming fast. They’re predicting a shift from the classified to the open sourced, where opportunities in the field, even for (if not especially for) unclassified talent are more plentiful than ever. When it comes to the open, unclassified world, Dave describes it as “a vast ocean of data there that we want to pull inside … Pivoting to bolster up the next generation to support GEOINT, and making investments into each other’s success.”
You can learn more about Royce Geospatial Consultants on their website.